Today, alas, not only is the Israeli peace camp dead, but the most effective Israeli “bastard for peace,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is retiring. As I sat with Barak in his office the other day, he shared with me his parting advice to Israel’s next and sure-to-be-far-right government.
Huge political forces, with deep roots, are now playing out around Israel, particularly the rise of political Islam, said Barak. “We have to learn to accept it and see both sides of it and try to make it better. I am worried about our tendency to adopt a fatalistic, pessimistic perception of history. Because, once you adopt it, you are relieved from the responsibility to see the better aspects and seize the opportunities” when they arise.
If Israel just assumes that it’s only a matter of time before the moderate Palestinian leaders in the West Bank fall and Hamas takes over, “why try anything?” added Barak. “And, therefore, you lose sight of the opportunities and the will to seize opportunities. … I know that you can’t say when leaders raise this kind of pessimism that it is all just invented. It is not all invented, and you would be stupid if you did not look [at it] with open eyes. But it is a major risk that you will not notice that you become enslaved by this pessimism in a way that will paralyze you from understanding that you can shape it. The world is full of risks, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a responsibility to do something about it — within your limits and the limits of realism — and avoid self-fulfilling prophecies that are extremely dangerous here.”